by Campbell Geeslin
It was regularly predicted that e-books would overtake print by 2015. Between 2008 and 2010, e-book sales soared 1,260 percent. Print sales dwindled, bookstores shut down, and publishers and authors feared that cheap e-books would cannibalize their business. But in the first five months of this year, e-book sales fell by 10 percent.
Len Viahos, former chief of a research group that tracks publishing, told the Times, “E-books were this rocket ship going straight up. Just about everybody you talked to thought we were going the way of digital music.”
Owen Teicher, head of the American Booksellers Association, said, “The fact that the digital side of the business has leveled off has . . . resulted in a far healthier independent bookstore market today than we have had in a long time.”
At BookPeople, an Austin, Texas, bookstore, sales were up nearly 11 percent this year over last, and 2015 will be its most profitable year ever. Co-owner Steve Bercu said, “The e-book terror has kind of subsided.”
P.S. ON E-BOOKS: Author Anne Bernays of Cambridge, Mass., wrote a letter to the Times: “It took me three books’ worth to realize that reading a book off a plastic tablet is a pain. The ‘pages’ often turn back or forward by themselves. A tablet has no personality; a real book is almost a living thing.
“I guess that a lot of people feel the same way. This is heartening news.”
SPORT BOOK: Mike Petri is the author of R Is for Rugby. He’s also a key player on the U.S. rugby team. When he and his wife were expecting their first child they shopped for books. Petri said, “They had kids’ alphabet books about baseball, football, basketball. But nothing about rugby.” He and his wife began playing around with rhymes.
“The most basic play
Is an old-fashioned switch.
One guy will strike,
But it’s hard to tell which.”
Petri said, “I’m not saying it’s Pulitzer Prize material or anything. But we’ve sold more than a thousand copies in a few months, and I’ve heard from people whose kids love it or who even use it themselves when they’ve watched rugby.”
SOME TITLE: Grace Jones, the “avant-garde rocker and provocateur,” is the author of a memoir with the title I’ll Never Write My Memoirs.
Asked by The New York Times why she had, Jones said, “I’m allowed to change my mind you know.”
EX-DRONE’S BOOK: Ernest Cline is the author of the bestselling sci-fi novel, Ready Player One. He lives in Austin, Texas, with his wife and daughter. He has worked “as a short-order cook, fish gutter, plasma donor, elitist video store clerk and tech support drone,” and is a veteran of the Austin Poetry Slam. He sold the movie rights to Ready in 2010, the day after Crown won publication rights in a bidding war. The director is Stephen Spielberg and last month came word that the release date would be December 15, 2017.
John Alden, columnist for the Cleveland Plain Dealer, wrote that Ready has “elaborate virtual scenarios, from an ‘80s dance party on a cyberpunk-themed world called Neonoir to the climactic battle at the gate of Castle Anora.” Alden suggests that some readers will need Google to identify many of the references to what Alden calls “this memorable feast.”
STARS SELL: Comedian Amy Schumer has a book deal that The Guardian says included an $8 to $10 million advance. The book will be made up of essays that are “expected to explore her childhood, her career, family and feminism.”
Philip Jones, editor-in-chief of The Bookseller, said, “In this new age, visibility is really the key to selling books. . . .The bigger the name, the bigger the media exposure.”
ABOUT THE SOUTH: Paul Theroux, 74, is the author of Deep South, his 51st book and his 10th about travel. He drove around below the Mason-Dixon Line and got quotes from preachers, mayors, quarry workers, housing and poverty experts. Too many, said Dwight Garner in a New York Times review. “You don’t embark on a Paul Theroux adventure to listen to other people. He has a penetrating mind and a pumalike style; he’s among the most consistently interesting writers of the last half century. You want unfiltered Theroux, which is a kind of drug, a form of black tar heroin. There’s not enough of it here.”
He quotes Theroux often anyway: “’It was odd,’ he writes, ‘never to be in the presence of temptation, no flirting, no romance, no promise of another life.’
“Ah well, the South warmed him up in other ways. ‘The good will,’ he writes, ‘was like an embrace.’”
SERMON: “The Lutheran pastor Nadia Bolz-Weber is nobody’s idea of a conventional minister,” Gregory Cowles wrote in a recent Times Book Review. "She’s 6-foot-1 and covered with tattoos, for one thing, and she curses like George Carlin. But Bolz-Weber, who runs the House for All Sinners and Saints in Denver, told the BBC that while she’s socially progressive, ‘theologically I’m not liberal,’ and sin is always on her mind: ‘I never weary of speaking of the ways in which we are broken and in need of grace.’ It’s a popular message: Her book Accidental Saints hits the hardcover nonfiction list at No. 8.”
SHY HEM: “Ernest Hemingway: Between Two Wars” is the title of an exhibit that opened September 25 at the Morgan Library & Museum in Manhattan. Charles McGrath, writer-at-large at The New York Times, quoted both a “blustery, cranky Hemingway” and a “more endearing writer [who] reveals himself in a series of uncharacteristically shy wartime letters to Mary Welsh, who would become his fourth wife. In one, he apologizes for not knowing enough adjectives. In another, in a sort of stream-of-conscious vision of intimacy apparently written in darkness while he is traveling with the infantry as a war correspondent, he says: ‘It would be lovely to be in bed now, legs close and all held tight . . . like when you’ve pulled the pin from a grenade and let the handle ease up under your hand.”
AUCTION: A 1,500-volume collection of books put together by Robert S. Pirie, a lawyer and investment banker who died in January, is expected to bring more than $15 million at auction. It includes early editions of Shakespeare and Christopher Marlow, the first English book about dogs and Charles I’s personal King James Bible.
Reporter Jennifer Schuessler wrote in The New York Times: “And the dog book? Of English Dogges (1576), by the physician John Caius was written in Latin before being translated into the tongue of his canine-mad compatriots.”
DIRTY BOOKS: Liesl Schillinger is the author of Wordbirds. In the September 27 New York Times Book Review, she was asked, “Why read books considered obscene?”
Schillinger replied, “You can shun obscene books if you like, but you can’t scrub erotic fantasies from the mind’s hard drive. The choice of dreaming about them, acting upon them, repressing them, or reading them is yours, to be made at your own risk, and at your own pleasure.”